NaNoWriMo 2012: A Short Victory Lap

Word Count: 50079

I passed over the 50K threshold Tuesday night.  After a 10K three-day weekend, I decided that I could get over the finish line in a day or so.  Monday, I wrote about 2K, and Tuesday I wrote about 3K.  You can view my stats here.  This is my third NaNoWriMo win.

I’m not done yet.

I’m a little over halfway through my (constantly changing) outline, and my target word count is 90,000.  After a day or two off, I’ll be writing about 1,000 words a day, which should let me finish The Coral Gate sometime in mid-January.

After that?  Well, I need to get started on what I’ve un-creatively titled Son of Bodhisattva, a rework of my short story “Bodhisattva” into a 90,000-word novel.  My friend Casey suggested I title it Emptiness, which is also a good choice.  Another might be Moon Rabbit, a parable that’ll become more important in the story.  The original short story will wind up being rewritten as the first two and a half chapters, leading into a religious struggle that envelops the entire US.

I also need to get crit for Dahlia, which has been sitting around for a few months since my last revision.  It’s an odd bird: it began as a novella, which I realized was still far too short to tell the whole story adequately, so I expended it into a novel during last year’s NaNoWriMo.  I really like it, but it has a few plot points that are too similar to The Knife of Never Letting Go (which I haven’t read), and I’m pretty tired of seeing post-apocalyptic YA, even if it does still sell.  I’ll put it under the knife again after getting some feedback first.

I also have three or four short stories that I need to revise, get critiqued, revise again, and so on.  I have revision constipation; I need to wrap up The Coral Gate, Son of Bodhisattva/Emptiness/Moon Rabbit, and another short story I started earlier this month, and then spend a year getting everything up to spec.

I’ll post occasionally about my progress with The Coral Gate.  In the meantime, to my fellow NaNoWriMoers, it’s been a great month, we’ve all written some awesome stuff, and here’s to next year!


NaNoWriMo 2012, Week 3: Thanksgiving Eve Edition

Word Count: 35,060

And now I’m in the doldrums.

The problem isn’t the story — it’s chugging along quite merrily, in fact.  Up until now, the issue has been time.  My social engagements, exercise, and work had effectively slimmed down my remaining free time to just enough to keep on pace.  On Sunday, I slipped a day behind, and through some determination (and something I’ll mention below) rebounded back to par.  Luckily, the past few days have been much less intense.

So, what’s changed since last week?

The story’s become an ensemble piece.  I originally envisioned The Coral Gate with a single narrative thread: Lily, discovering a stone arch in the woods, learns to summon creatures and discovers it’s actually a portal to two separate worlds.  But when I fleshed out the outline before NaNoWriMo, I added supporting characters: Ben, the scientist at C-32 who also finds the arch; Noah, Lily’s reporter father, who writes more stories about how strange creatures are appearing around the town they live in; and Annie, an unexpected house guest for Lily and her family, who has ties to her two brothers.

I didn’t realize that I was writing an ensemble story until I noticed how much Star Trek: Deep Space Nine I was watching after my writing sessions.  That show also has a large ensemble cast (the emissary storyline with Sisko dropped quickly after season 1), is also about a portal (which runs on technobabble and angelic aliens), and includes characters of varying species, ethnicities and sexualities.

Once I saw the connections, my story began to morph.  I started writing far more POVs than I intended.  For comparison, my novel Those Who Favor Fire uses only 6 POVs, and one takes up 50% of the book.  I’ve used at least that many so far into The Coral Gate, and I’m over a third of the way done with it.  One chapter is nothing but reactions from every character present at a significant magical event; the next, which I’m currently writing, is a segmented story told by four different characters, constructing a flashback to a pivotal moment from a few years before the events in the book.

There’s a good chance I’ll cut some or all of that in revision.  But it’s important to help me establish who  these people are, because I know now that they’re all going to be important in the climax.

The way things are going, I’ll probably be writing that climax after New Year’s.  After I hit 50K, I’ll take a few days to re-evaluate some of my narrative choices, then regroup and chug along at 1K per day until I’m done.  I could get to 50K this weekend if I wanted; I have all day Friday off, as well as Saturday and Sunday.  I probably won’t, but it’s an interesting thought.

So, some news.  I’ve decided to move to a part-time position at my current job.  I’ll be starting my new schedule on January 1st.  I’ve given the notion a lot of thought this year; I had planned on waiting to see if I could land a book contract first, but after realizing that my time was far more precious than I realized, I decided to jump the gun a bit.  I’ll be working roughly half the hours I do now for a little over half the pay.  I’ll survive on a spartan budget indefinitely, and in return I’ll get more time to write, revise, critique, and read.  I really miss reading.  My plodding pace getting through a collection of stories by Damon Knight is driving me insane, but I don’t have any further time to devote to that this month.  (Except if I stop watching as much Deep Space Nine, perhaps.)  Regardless, my budding writing career is becoming much more important, and I need the time to devote to it.

Now, about getting that first sale. . .


NaNoWriMo 2012, Week 2

Total words: 25,163

I feel like I just had a second week 1.

I’m a third of the way into my outline at best (but probably closer to a quarter).  The usual NaNoWriMo compositional narrative runs thus: strong wind through week 1, duldrums in week 2, a slow sail back to the tradewinds in week 3, and a mad rush to the finish in week 4.  I’m still riding the strong winds.

Being out-of-sync with my fellow WriMos leaves me feeling a bit odd.  Many of my writing buddies are in the week 2 doldrums, struggling to get even 250 words done each day, if that.  I’m making 2,000 words a day (when I have the time, that is!), the story still strong in my mind as it leaves through my fingers into the computer.

Things could go south very soon.  I might find myself in those same doldrums, the ones that delayed my finishing Those Who Favor Fire for a year and a half, and that killed another novel completely.  The real halfway mark will occur close to the end of the month.  I’ll feel much more comfortable on the other side of that.


NaNoWriMo 2012, Week 1

Total: 14,065 words

Start-to-date average: 2,009 words/day

There’s always the urge to push far ahead in the first week, knowing things will get dire around week 2 or 3.  I’ve been most successful when my word counts have kept consistent below a certain threshold (usually around 2,000 words a day).  When I began Those Who Favor Fire, I was writing around 4,000 words a day, and I burned out.  Things got a bit dicey a few days ago, when I had to write 3,000 words/day so I could take Election Day off.  My brain felt like mush when I finished.


NaNoWriMo 2012: Quick Thoughts at the Beginning

Once again, I have decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month.  This will be my fifth year participating, and an anticipated third win, should I make it to 50,000 words by December 1.

This year’s project will be The Coral Gate, a rural, modern-day fantasy set in backwoods Tennessee.  “Lily Mason and her family discover a red stone arch near a national laboratory in rural Tennessee; soon, creatures appear from the arch, and not all of them are friendly or benign.”  It’s a concept I’ve toyed with this year: writing a portal/parallel worlds fantasy that doesn’t feel like every other one out there.  I’ve also wanted to write a fantasy series that takes place around Roane County, where I spent part of my childhood and early adulthood.

Lily, the protagonist, represents some of my frustration with living in Kingston and Harriman.  She doesn’t fit in, either with her family or her community at large; when the gate summons an intelligent gnome from another world, fleeing for his life, Lily begins to think about the repercussions of living in an intolerant, isolated Christian community.

There are also unicorns, giant wasps and car-devouring monster plants.  Because if you can create a gateway between worlds, why not (as a writer) take advantage of that?

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from participating in NaNoWriMo is to be passionate about what you write.  I’ve attempted ambitious stories that imploded midway through because I didn’t care about what was happening.  I designed The Coral Gate to tap into as many different passions of mine as possible: environmental and social justice, religious belief, sexuality, oppression, and creative expression.  It might not be about any of these in the end, and could well end up about something different (it could end up about the importance of car maintenance on the first scene alone).  But if your project isn’t informed by your passions, you’ll run out of steam quickly in the ensuing chaos that is November.

So, best of luck to my fellow NaNo-ers.  I’ll be writing close to the daily quota for most of the month, so if you blow on past me, give yourself a pat on the back and move forward. I’ll be at the finish line by the end of the month, all willing.